Thursday, August 4, 2016

Object-Oriented Ontology

This summer I had the honor of receiving a SISTAR grant through Saint Mary's College to create a photographic series on the hot topic in art theory: Object-Oriented Ontology. The fabulous Professor Krista Hoefle and I met weekly for philosophical discussions on our readings on the subject and to give each other feedback on our complimenting projects.

What is Object-Oriented Ontology? Ontology is the philosophical study of existence. Object-Oriented Ontology (“OOO” for short) puts things at the center of this inquiry of existence. OOO rejects the modern philosophical concept that human perception of objects is the cornerstone of their substances or "thingness." Object-oriented ontologists consider everything's existence equally whether objects are big or small, living or inanimate. (Pioneers of the field include Graham Harman, Ian Bogost, Levi Bryant, and Timothy Morton.)

This photographic series aims to embody OOO principles by removing humans from everyday scenes, thereby imagining an existence of objects independent from human interaction. Therefore, viewers are prompted to ponder the inherent properties of objects rather than human innovation of them. The result of this photographic speculation manifests in objects floating in scenes, apparently autonomous, revealing the interactions and interdependence between a democracy of objects that shape everyday life.

A special thanks to Professor Aaron Moe of the English department for introducing me to OOO and suggesting fascinating readings. Many thanks to Gwen O'Brien of the SMC Courier Magazine for her kind words, support, and publicity. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


The ubiquitous quotation of indefinite origin asserting that “the eyes are the windows to the soul” has been attributed to many great thinkers such as Cicero, Milton, Leonardo da Vinci, and Shakespeare. While many parts of the body can be sexualized and objectified, eyes resist dehumanization due to their associations with the soul or inner-self. In the series, Scrutineyes, I cover the human form with eyes to create an eerie reminder that often criticized and objectified body parts house a soul with agency. While body parts often appear as isolated objects to sell products in advertisements, viewers of this series are invited to see past the superficiality of flesh by viewing the eyes as a window into the depths of human existence. 

It is difficult not to have a reaction of repulsion to the photographs in Scrutineyes. When people scrutinize themselves in the mirror, they might have a similar repulsed reaction to their blemishes, wrinkles, weight, and shape. In this series, the eyes overshadow the traditional objects of self-scrutiny such as blemishes, waistlines, and other superficial concerns. Instead of being disgusted by imperfections, viewers are disgusted by the eyes. Thus eyes, the vehicle of scrutiny, become the subject of scrutiny. This reversal reminds viewers that critiquing one’s appearance is more repulsive in nature than the “flaws” they critique. 

Scrutineyes prompts viewers to examine their inner selves by exposing the ugliness of corporeal criticism. 


Sunday, April 3, 2016

"Everything is Fine" a digital exploration of glamorized entrapment

This series explores issues in seemingly benign female gender roles by juxtaposing eating disorders, beauty standards, and domesticity with more overtly constraining and destructive subjects such as prescription use, alcoholism, and nicotine. In each picture the woman is trapped in some sort of container with her figure more or less noticeable to symbolize how some issues are more difficult to spot than others. Each arrangement is pristine, glitzy, and deliberately constructed to show how harms are glamorized or minimized through various disguises. 

I hope the meanings of each photo is apparent. However, I'd like to elucidate that the fifth image downplays nicotine addiction by comparing cigarettes to something as benign as tea, playing on the rationalization that nicotine is just another stimulant like caffeine. Note that no cigarettes were burned in the making of that image as the smoke is digitally rendered. The purpose of this series is to provoke viewer to think about how they or others disguise seemingly destructive situations. 

*Note that the first image is not meant to trivialize ADHD, but rather to give voice to the sometimes mentally constraining side effects of medication. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Psychological Sound Art and Absurd Poetic Spoken-Word

Sound art is a widely under-recognized and misunderstood artistic medium. In a nutshell, it is any deliberately construed recording that defies the boundaries of music and is intended for an artistic audience. Sound art sometimes accompanies corresponding artwork in a gallery or it may be installed in a site-specific piece, or it may exist purely on its own to provide the listener with a unique auditory experience.

My sound art draws on abnormal, inner psychological concepts and experiences to provide the listener with insight into the internal depths of unfamiliar thoughts. Each sound piece is recorded with my own voice reciting a script I composed stream of consciousness or with experimental methods.

A special thanks to my dad, Allen de Somer, for letting me use his recording studio, helping me with technical expertise, and for being an awesome dad in general.

My first piece, An Ode to Absurdity, started out with a poem I wrote by putting my Facebook statuses through a random sentence generator. With those randomly generated phases, I edited them into slant rhymes and poetic structures to give it a better flow. The result was an incoherent but entertaining poem. A year later, I set it to sounds that I recorded having to do with the process of writing such as pages flipping, typewriter key sounds, nervous breathing, etc. I then set them to sound loops with conveyed the intended feeling. The result is supposed to convey the disjointed state of an author's mind before the words, phrases, and sounds make it on to the page and into an intelligible whole.

My next piece, The Hypnotist, is less random the the first, but no less absurd. Drawing on my experiences with hypnotherapy as an adolescent, I wanted to explore the concepts of sanity and imagination by reversing the roles of therapist and patient. Thus, it is a guided meditation led by an unstable narrator. This piece aims to lead listeners to question the boundaries of normalcy and absurdity by creating a hazy trance-like dreamscape interspersed with surreal mental imagery.

The third piece, It's Getting Closer, was made from copying lines from popular animated children's movies (no copyright infringement intended) and placing them in a frightening context. It aims to disconcert listeners with chilling, suspenseful noise combinations. With inspiration as diverse as Walt Disney and Alfred Hitchcock, new permutations of emotion are synthesized from both implicit and explicit terror. The recorded content hails from innocent sources such as classic children's movie scripts and family pets (the laughing noise in the background is my 23-year-old turtle dove, Happy). These seemingly benign sources enmesh with sound loops intended for horror movies and psychological thrillers to symbolize the on-guard perception of anxiety prone minds. “It’s Getting Closer” aims to portray the tense, disquieted feelings that anxious children (and adults) might experience while viewing escalating scenes in otherwise cheerful films.

This is an ongoing project that I hope to add to in the future to make an album or artistic series of these dramatic musings.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Myriads of Words: Charcoal Dictionary Drawings

Last summer I bought an old dictionary from a thrift shop for 99 cents (cue Macklemore music).

Inspired by the Walt Whitman quote:
"Were you thinking that those were the words—those delicious sounds out of your friends’ mouths? No, the real words are more delicious than they.
Human bodies are words, myriads of words;
In the best poems re-appears the body"
I set a goal to do one drawing of a human body per letter in the alphabet of the dictionary to illustrate the relationship between physicality and language as outlined in Whitman's poetry.

I didn't complete the project before going back to school, but I hope to resume it during Christmas break. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Ugly Sweater Project: Donald Trump

Many fantastic classes hide in the depths of the art building at Saint Mary's College. "Sculptural Knit and Crochet" is one of the gems. In this class, we explored the medium of yarn in different historic and political contexts such as "subversive knitting" movements and "yarn bombing," Our final assignment was to knit an interpretation of the cultural phenomenon of "the bad sweater." Rather than an ugly Christmas sweater, the worst thing I thought of knitting was Donald Trump. I then came to the chilling question: what's worse than Donald Trump on a sweater? Donald Trump as president.

Eliot Unbound

As both a literature and art enthusiast, I heartily enjoy mixing the two disciples together and drawing connections. This mixed-media assemblage triptych, “Eliot Unbound” aims to translate T.S. Eliot’s unconventional approaches to writing poetry into a paradigm for creating visual art. In T.S. Eliot’s poem, “The Waste Land,” he references unrelated historic and cultural anecdotes preceding World War I, assembling each reference into a disjointed but unified poem. The poem is very difficult to read due to its fragmented and incoherent nature. It is most widely interpreted as a reaction to how war breaks apart society and culture. Thus, the experience of reading the poem is like sifting through a diasporic dump, attempting to put things back together the way they used to be, but never entirely making sense of it. Eliot’s approach to writing this poem can be summarized in Eliot’s line: “These fragments I have shored against my ruins.”

For this assemblage, I ripped, crumpled, coffee-stained, and tattered fragments of Eliot’s poem, creating waste out of “The Waste Land.” Then following Eliot’s approach to poetic composition, I “shored” together the fragments of his poem into a cohesive whole by crocheting it together in three different ways with yarn. Crocheting is congruous with poetic composition, for the crafter composes, lines, spaces, loops, and breaks in stitches the same way poets structure their poems with words. To further reference the historic context of Eliot’s work, I sewed the poems onto the canvases using surgical thread found in my attic from World War I. Staining the pages with coffee is a subtle tribute to T.S. Eliot’s line “I have measured out my life in coffee spoons” from “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock." Displayed vertically, the resulting triptych flows together with a sense of chaotic unity by aligning the dissimilar elements in each block with the next. Through these pieces, I hope to elucidate the connections between poetic art and visual art by applying the methods and contexts of T.S. Eliot’s poetry to assemblage.